How is it possible for one middle-aged Saudi millionaire to threaten the
world's only superpower? This is the question at the center of Jonathan
Randal's riveting, timely account of Osama bin Laden's role in the rise of
terrorism in the Middle East. Randala journalist whose experience of the
Middle East spans the past forty yearsmakes clear how Osama's life
epitomizes the fatal collision between twenty-first-century Islam and the West,
and he describes the course of Osama's estrangement from both the West and the
Saudi petro-monarchy of which his family is a part. He examines Osama's
terrorist activities before September 11, 2001, and shows us how, after the
attack on the World Trade Center, Osama presented the West with something new in
the annals of contemporary terrorism: an independently wealthy entrepreneur with
a seemingly worldwide following ready to do his bidding. Randal explores the
possibility that Osama offered the Saudis his Al-Qaeda forces to drive Saddam
Hussein out of Kuwait in 1991; he traces the current sources of Osama's money;
and he tells us why the Iraq war has played into the hands of the terrorists.
With his long-maintained sources in the Middle East and his intimate
understanding of the region, Randal gives us a clearer explanation than any we
have had of the whys and wherefores of the world's most prominent and feared
Behind The Book
With his long-maintained sources in the Middle East and intimate
understanding of the region, Jonathan Randal sheds light on Osama bin Laden's
role in the rise of terrorism. Here, Randal uses his years of research to
separate fact from fiction when it comes to basic questions Americans have about
3 reasons why Osama is happy with the Bush administration's war in Iraq
The ideology-driven war dreamed up by Bush's neoconservative advisors
allows foreign jihadi terrorists to blend in with a legitimate nationalist
resistance movement against a western military occupation. That's hard to
beat for no cost piggybacking.
Participating in the Iraqi resistance to the United States allows the jihadis
a foothold in the very heart of the Middle East. Iraq is rich in water as well
as oil and is right next door to Osama's birthplace, Saudi Arabia, which remains
his principal target.
The presence of foreign jihadis may not please many Iraqis, but in the rest
the Arab and wider Muslim worlds they are seen as hurting the world's only
4 myths about Osama
He was a boozing skirt chaser as a young manpure disinformation.
He is a religious authority. Not so, he needs more learned Muslims to
formulate his fatwas.
He hated all things western from his earliest youth. He got on well with
Westerners, including Americans, when he was a young man working for his
family's giant construction company, which employed many Western engineers.
He is rich as Croesus. The American government created the myth that he was
worth $300 million dollars back in 1996, years after his much more modest
5 facts about Al Qaeda
It has survived the capture of as many as two thirds of its top cadre, but
still presents a formidable force.
Al Qaeda needs far less money to function than the United States believes to
be the case.
Despite American government suggestions that it has staunched the money
flowing into Al Qaeda coffers, in fact that is far from true because informal
transfer systems and cash are its stock in trade and the United States has
little idea what to do on this score.
Although Al Qaeda certainly has trained and financed at least some of the men
involved in terrorist operations from Morocco to Istanbul and Bali to Kenya,
many of the foot soldiers are locals who were never trained in bin Laden's camps
in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Such is the power of emulation that Osama and
September 11th exert.
Most of its operations are standard low-tech straight out of western military
manuals for guerrilla warfare. September 11th was the main exception. The Madrid
train bombings in March 2004 used cheap electronic wristwatches to set off
explosives on multiple trains, and that suggests the terrorists are getting
smarter and outgrowing suicide car bomb operations.
Considering how little is known about Osama bin Laden, some might think it a little challenging to produce a 300 page biography of the man. However, by setting what is known of bin Laden's life in the context of the larger regional issues, this is what Jonathan Randal has done. Osama has received generally positive reviews; negative comments are not so much to do with his fact gathering but his presentation of the facts in a light that is not flattering to the USA government, from Clinton through to the present. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
The volume does a nimble and often highly compelling job of leading the reader through the labyrinth of information and speculation about Al Qaeda and the broader jihadi movement, showing how Islamic terrorism has evolved and proliferated over the last two and a half decades . . . [Randal] provides a succinct account of how the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan brought together Islamic radicals from around the world, inflamed their self-righteousness and anger, and gave them faith in their ability to bring a superpower to its knees.
New York Times Book Review - Ben Macintyre
[A] meticulous account of the emergence and spread of the terror virus [and a] map of world that produced him and his fellow Islamists.
Boston Sunday Globe - Richard A. Clarke
An account that is simultaneously detailed and fast paced . . . witty, opinionated, and highly urbane . . . Of all the flutter of bin Laden and Al Qaeda books, Randal has produced the most readable and informative.
The Washington Post's Book World - Robert D. Kaplan
The problem with Randal's book is that while there are enough useful insights to make it a worthwhile read, its lack of understanding or empathy for the realities in which any American administration -- Republican or Democratic -- is forced to deal reduces the text in many places to the same old, tired criticisms of American policy that, while perhaps justified, insufficiently advance the reader's knowledge or understanding. The author inveighs against the hypocrisy of American support for authoritarian regimes, even as the United States calls for more democracy in the Arab world. The remark shows insufficient understanding of how great powers, even when they seek to advance universalist goals, must also deal with the world as it is. Moreover, if some of those repressive regimes were to collapse, even more turmoil and consequent human suffering might ensue....Randal the seasoned man-of-the-world is more insightful than Randal the expatriate. Nevertheless, American policymakers would do well to excuse the latter in order to glean perceptions from the former.
Booklist - Vanessa Bush
This is a fascinating, informative look at the man considered the foremost terrorist threat to the U.S.
Starred Review. This study of the terrorist leader is an outstanding achievement, especially in light of the inherent difficulty in writing at length about so elusive a man, who rarely appears in public, has left few written traces yet has a larger-than-life stature.
Starred Review. A masterful work of reporting.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by nathan.j campbell
im only 15 but istill think the book is one of the best i've read
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